Even in “normal” circumstances, one should keep a healthy sense of protectiveness about themselves when it comes to their finances. There are criminals in this world who are constantly on the lookout for new ways to con people out of their money. According to the 2020 Internet Crime Report by the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center, there were nearly 800,000 complaints of suspected internet crime reported, with losses exceeding $4.2 billion.
However, leaving scam artists and criminals aside for just a moment, when a natural disaster or any other unforeseen emergency arises, it is still important to protect your financial well-being as you may find yourself facing unexpected issues with your credit reports or scores for example.
You can get a free credit report from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies at least once every 12 months. And until the end of 2026, you can get an additional six free credit reports every 12 months from Equifax. When you visit the site, you may see steps to view more frequently updated reports online. This means that you have opportunities to request reports, monitor your credit, and ask for any errors to be corrected. You can request a copy of your credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com.
While many people pull together during times of crisis, when people are vulnerable there will always be a criminal element lurking in the shadows, waiting to take advantage of folks. That’s why it is so important to be vigilant in protecting yourself from scammers and fraudsters.
To avoid scams while the world moves back to “normal” after a natural disaster or emergency, there are some things you can be on the lookout for if you have a suspicion that something is too good to be true.
People who want you to pay up-front fees to help you claim services, benefits, or get loans.
Contractors selling repairs door-to-door, especially when they ask to receive payment up front or offer deep discounts.
Con artists posing as government employees, insurance adjusters, law enforcement officials, or bank employees. It is easy to fake credibility and uniforms, so do not give out personal information to people you do not know. Government employees will never charge to help you get a benefit or service and will never ask for payment or financial information.
Limited time offers — anyone who offers you something and tells you that it is for a very limited time may be trying to pressure you into something that you could later regret. You should never be pressured to decide on the spot or to sign anything without having enough time to review it. Take your time reading and understanding anything presented to you. In addition, ask a trusted friend, relative, or attorney before acting.
If a person trying to sell you a product or service cannot or won’t answer your questions, this is a red flag that you might want to look for someone else to do business with. If you are having trouble with a financial product or service, you can submit a complaint online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372).
Beware of unsolicited asks for your personal or financial information – For example, if you receive a call or email asking for payment on a donation pledge you don’t remember making, hang up the phone and don’t give out your credit card number.
Look up the organization through a trusted third-party source – Before you donate, research the charity through a valid third-party resource, such as guidestar.org, give.org, charitynavigator.org, or your local Better Business Bureau.
If you do not feel comfortable, do not contribute – If you’re not sure about a donation request or organization, trust your instincts.
There has been a bunch of true crime documentaries lately, showing the predatory activities of fraudsters. The numbers have noticeably risen after 2008 when the world faced economic collapse and the population was grasping for ways to recover financially. Examples include Bad Vegan, WeCrashed, The Dropout, The Tinder Swindler, and many more.
One notable in that lineup is Trust No One: The Hunt for the Crypto King, which follows the story of the now defunct Canadian Crypto exchange QuadrigaCX. The moral of that story is that one needs to be wary of who they trust when it comes to investing their hard-earned money, and as tempting as it may seem, cryptocurrencies are no exception to that rule.
The best defense against investment fraud is an educated and skeptical attitude from the consumer. If you believe a crime has occurred, report it to your local law enforcement’s non-emergency number. You can also report charity scams and financial abuse to your state attorney general or the Federal Trade Commission .
Material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only and is not intended to be used in connection with the evaluation of any investments offered by David Lerner Associates, Inc. This material does not constitute an offer or recommendation to buy or sell securities and should not be considered in connection with the purchase or sale of securities.
To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law.
Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances.
These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable-- we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.
David Lerner Associates does not provide tax or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual's personal circumstances.
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